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AirPods Pro vs. Google Pixel Buds 2

AirPods Pro vs Google Pixel Buds 2
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The AirPods Pro are currently the de facto king of true wireless earbuds. Apple finally gave fans long-requested features including interchangeable eartips and active noise cancellation. In addition, the buds got better touch controls while retaining the near-instant pairing and hands-free Siri of previous models. The AirPods Pro also sounds great whether you’re listening to music or making a phone call. 

But Apple isn’t the only company making audio improvements. Google’s Pixel Buds 2 makes some necessary changes to the OG buds, like  making them truly wireless. The new buds offer good audio, real-time translation and, taking a page out of Apple’s book, you get Fair Pair. It’s a comeback story two years in the making. But which pair of earbuds are the best in the land? Read on to find out.

Specs

AirPods Pro Google Pixel Buds 2
Price $249 $179
Wireless Charging Case Yes Yes
Rated Battery Life 5 hours (24 hours of battery life with case) 5 hours (24 hour of battery life with case)
Water Resistance IPX 4 (can withstand sweat and water, but not for use in water sports) IPX 4 (can withstand sweat and water, but not for use in water sports)
Weight (Buds, Case) (0.19 ounces, 1.6 ounces) (0.18 ounces, 1.9 ounces)
Size (Buds, Case) (1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches, 2.4 x 1.7 x 0.9 inches) (0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches, 2.5 x 1.9 x 1 inches)
Features Active noise cancellation, transparency mode, adaptive EQ, customizable fit, audio sharing, announced messages with Siri, “Hey Siri” voice-activated assistance Adaptive sound, hands-free digital assistant, Fast pair, real-time translation

Price

AirPods Pro vs Google Pixel Buds 2

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

At $179, Google Pixel Buds 2 are aggressively priced for a pair of premium truly wireless earbuds. In comparison, the AirPods Pro are a budget-stretching $249. And while there have been sales on the AirPods Pro, we’ve yet to see them drop below $200.

Winner: Google Pixel Buds 2

Design

Google finally cut the cord on Pixel Buds 2 by making them truly wireless.This is  one of the best decisions the company has made in regards to earbuds. Available in a small selection of colors, including Clearly White, Almost Black, Quite Mint and Oh So Orange, the earbuds look similar to Mentos, albeit with a G engraved into the center of the earcap. When worn, the earbuds sit flush in your ears and are secured in place with an ear wing. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Although the AirPods Pro has undergone a redesign, it still has a rather polarizing look that’s reminiscent of a pair of tiny hair dryers. The buds heads are larger than the previous generation of AirPods while the stems are shorter, with a pair of divots carved out for the force sensor controls.

Both sets of earbuds have an IPX4 rating which means they’re sweat and water resistant in case you decide to take them to the gym or you get caught in a light rain. 

The Pixel Buds weigh 0.18 ounces and measure 0.8 x 0.8 x 0.7 inches, which is slightly lighter and smaller than the AirPods Pro (0.19 ounces, 1.2 x 0.9 x 0.9 inches).

Winner: Google Pixel Buds 2

Comfort

Both pairs of earbuds are more comfortable than their predecessors, and I had no problems wearing the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds 2 for more than two hours. Apple finally gave the people what they wanted and slapped some eartips on the AirPods Pro. But the company didn’t stop there, it also created a fit test that plays a series of tones in your ear to determine whether or not you have a tight seal. If not, the app will recommend switching to one of the other eartips bundled with the buds. 

AirPods Pro vs Google Pixel Buds 2

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

I was surprised by how comfortable the Pixel Buds 2 actually are. Inserting the Pixel Buds is as simple as holding the bud to your ear with the ear wing straight up. From there, just twist the bud counterclockwise into your ear until the wing sits wedged against your ear’s concha. While I could feel the medium-sized eartips in my inner ear, neither bulged uncomfortably. But what I really appreciated is how I could tap the buds to activate commands on the Pixel Buds without driving the eartips further into my ear. 

Winner: AirPods Pro

Controls

The second-gen Pixel Buds are the best take on wireless earbuds touch controls I’ve had the pleasure of using. There’s just enough surface area on the ear caps to perform forward and backwards swipes to raise and lower the volume. But the tapping is the star here. Instead of driving the buds deeper into my ear canal to pause/play music or answer a call, all that was needed wasa gentle tap. Best of all, the bud stayed in place. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The force sensors on the AirPods Pro are so much better than trying to stroke those skinny little stems on the last-gen Airpods. The little divots on the stem are easy to locate and even easier to tap and squeeze. It cuts down on potential fumbling when you’re in the midst of a solid groove. Plus, Apple added a lot of functionality in those stems, including play/pause, answer/ignore, skip tracks and adjust the ANC. 

Winner: Google Pixel Buds 2

Apps

The Pixel Buds have a free companion app in case you have an Android smartphone that isn’t a Pixel. iOS users are currently out of luck as a Pixel app has yet to appear in the Apple App store. The app is where you’ll unlock the full potential of the Buds including changing the Buds name and checking battery life. It’s here that you’ll also access the Find My Earbuds feature, enable/disable touch controls, adaptive sound, in-ear detection and Google Assistant. My only gripe is that the Pixel App lacks an adjustable equalizer that would let  listeners create their own custom sound. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

The AirPods don’t have an app, per se –– at least not in the Apple App Store. Instead, you can use the iOS settings menu to toggle between ANC/Transparency mode to either ANC/Off or Transparency/Off. There’s even a basic equalizer. However, you lose any semblance of a menu if you’re using the AirPods Pro with Android. That means you’ll have to settle for the out-of-the-box configuration. 

Winner: AirPods Pro

Features

Apple wasn’t playing around with the AirPods Pro features. The biggest new feature is the active noise cancelling, which fans have been asking for since the original AirPods. It’s a game-changing feature that, combined with the eartips, allows you to enjoy your music as it was meant to be -– with (almost) no outside interference. And in case you need to be aware of your surroundings, you have Transparency Mode to let ambient noise into the soundstage. Thanks to the H1 chip, near-instant pairing and hands-free Siri are also major features of the AirPods Pro. And speaking of Siri, now the digital assistant can read messages and notification on the Messaging app as well as certain third-party software. 

(Image credit: Regan Coule/Tom's Guide)

The Pixel Buds 2 have a number of features that are inspired by the AirPods, including Fast Pair, which institutes near instantaneous pairing between the buds and Pixel phones. You also get hands-free Google Assistant and Adaptive Sound, which causes the Buds to automatically adjust the volume on the Pixel Buds in relation to your environment. So when you go from a quiet space to a noisier space, the volume adjusts accordingly. 

But the Pixel Buds 2’s claim to fame is the same thing that put its predecessor in the limelight –– its translation ability. Used in conjunction with the Google Translate app, the Pixel Buds 2 can translate over 40 languages in real time. The Buds did a solid job of translating Telemundo into English.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Audio

Look, the AirPods Pro were never made for the audiophile crowd -- and that's perfectly fine. The buds still manage to deliver clean, balanced audio that's loud and plenty enjoyable. The Pixel Buds 2 isn’t too far behind, as it too produces clear audio. But in listening tests, the Pixel Buds 2’s soundstage sounds a bit closed off compared to the AirPod Pros. 

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

So that meant the bass on Eric Benet’s “Femininity” was a little overinflated on the Pixel Buds 2 compared to the AirPods Pro. That meant it would bleed ever so slightly into the soundstage, crowding the rest of the arrangement. Still, I could hear the guiro being rubbed in the background as well as the cymbals being gently hit as cleanly as on the AirPods Pro. 

When I switched over to Quicy Jones’ “Do Nothin’ Till You Hear From Me,” the earbuds were in a near dead heat with both delivering a rich trumpet, tinkling keyboard and warm bass guitar with Phil Collins’ playful vocals. However, the AirPods Pro had a warmer presentation. 

Winner: AirPods Pro

Battery Life

Both the AirPods Pro and Pixel Buds 2 get an estimated 5 hours of battery life, plus 24 hours of additional charge via their respective charging cases. Each charging case can be wirelessly charged via a Qi-compatible charger. 

AirPods Pro vs Google Pixel Buds 2

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

During my real-time testing, the AirPods Pro edged out the Pixel Buds 2, clocking in 4.5 hours compared to the Buds’ 4:37.

Winner: AirPods Pro

Call Quality

Each pair of earbuds delivered good call quality. Calls made indoors were fairly even with clear, relatively loud audio. However, thanks to the ANC, the AirPods Pro did a better job of blocking out ambient noise like water running in a sink. The AirPods Pro continued keeping out unwelcome noise as I walked around the block. Although the Pixel Buds 2 did a fairly good job of dulling most distractions, my callers noted that they could hear wind whipping and a passing ambulance, but the AirPods Pro did a superior job.

Winner: AirPods Pro

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

AirPods Pro Google Pixel Buds 2
Price 7 10
Design 8 9
Comfort 9 8
Apps 9 8
Features 10 8
Audio 9 8
Battery life 9 8
Call quality109
Total7168

Overall Winner:

We’ve reached the end of this face-off and the AirPods Pro is the clear winner. The wireless buds offer great audio, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it pairing, sweat resistance, and there’s even an EQ, rudimentary though it may be. Apple even answered consumer calls for eartips and threw in a redesign and fit test. But the AirPods Pro shines with its ANC technology and call quality which have catapulted the AirPods Pro to the winner’s circle. True, the design is a bit polarizing, the battery life could be better and it’s fairly expensive, but as the sum of its parts, the AirPods Pro are at the top of the truly wireless earbud market. 

Fast Pair, touch controls, Find my earbuds, hands-free digital assistant –– Google definitely took some of the best ideas from Apple to make the 2nd-gen Google Pixel Buds a contender. And Google is successful for the most part. The Pixel Buds are comfortable to wear with just enough durability for the gym and many of the features that the AirPods Pro offer, just with an Android-first approach. Where the Pixel Buds 2 sets itself apart is real-time translation, which continues to get better with every iteration, and the $179 price, which is a lot more appealing than the AirPods Pro’s $249 price tag.  

All in all, the Google Pixel Buds 2 is a great pair of earbuds with a lot of great features at an affordable price. But if you want the creme de la creme, the AirPods Pro is the way to go.